New York-Based Niche Perfume House D.S.& Durga Is Finally In India At Scentidoby | October 10, 2019
‘Perfume is armchair travel’. That is how David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja summarise their niche perfume house D.S. & Durga. It captures the ability of a fragrance to transcend physical boundaries and explore imaginary faraway landscapes.
Started by Moltz and Ahuja in Brooklyn, New York, the duo creates fantastical and poetic narratives that stem from real-world objects that dissect the essence of their many fragrances. For instance, their perfume Radio Bombay bottles the scent of ragas radiating in the Bandra heat, El Cosmico encapsulates the desert air of Marfa, and Italian Citrus gives you a whiff of coastal Italian citrus-rinds chinotto and blood oranges.
Moltz is a musician and a self-taught perfumer who is passionate about translating music notes into perfume notes. Each fragrance is conceived by Moltz in-house, while the other half of the duo, Ahuja, an architect by profession, lends her design eye to the brand. Together, the duo conveys their love for music, art, and design, aromatically. Each fragrance by them has a Spotify playlist dedicated to it that sums its vibe, while the packaging for their perfumes have liner notes with stories and ramblings by Moltz that help you better explore the world in the bottle.
With a product offering of perfumes, candles, and body washes, the brand is ‘woke’ and adheres to its conscious ethos. While their formulas are all 100 percent vegan, their packaging is sustainable, foam-free, and is made using recyclable paper. Their shipping materials are biodegradable too. With off-notes, unexpected combinations, and novel constructions, their fragrances are an invisible soundtrack that you can carry on your body throughout the day.
The brand has a store at Mulberry Street in New York but has established a global presence, by retailing at top retailers around the world. The brand is now finally foraying into India, retailing at Scentido in Mumbai and New Delhi. A niche perfumery, Scentido is known to provide a platform for indie brands such as this, and you can shop D.S.& Durga’s entire line here: in-store and online.
Unveiling today, October 10, we caught up with Moltz and Ahuja who have traded New York autumn for a sweltering Mumbai for this launch. The duo let us in on their brand philosophy, their decision to enter the Indian market, and on collaborating with Scentido.
Luxeva: You retail all over the world, but this is your first foray into India. How did you decide now was finally the right time to enter the Indian market?
Kavi Ahuja: “We expand slowly because we are small. India has always been on my radar as it is my homeland. But I wasn’t sure until now that the Indian consumer would be interested in a brand that is not known to them, and one that is about the craft and not the label.”
Luxeva: Why did you choose to retail at Scentido?
Kavi Ahuja: “Scentido is a passion project. The team there believes that India needs a marketplace for the flourishing niche perfume world, and we agree. Many of our scents are inspired by India and we are excited to share them with the world. We need to feel that a partner understands the special nature of D.S. & Durga.”
Luxeva: Do you think the brand will resonate with Indians?
Kavi Ahuja: “I think anyone that understands our unique story—perfumer/designer owned (extremely rare in the perfume world!), made in New York City, with very keen attention to details in storytelling—can find a connection to the brand. Our brand is a labour of love and a deep interest in placing perfumery among the canon of other art forms. We don’t always think in terms of a target customer. If you love entering imaginary worlds in music, film, and literature, I think you will like our perfumes. It’s a little luxury, a little escape.”
Luxeva: All your perfumes are exploratory and evoke memories of faraway places. Are these from your personal experiences or from imagination?
Kavi Ahuja: “It is a mixture of both. David, our perfumer, likes to immerse himself in the world of the thing he is creating. For some that involves travel, but other ideas are gleaned from research in books, art, and music.”
Luxeva: Where does the inspiration for Radio Bombay come from? What notes have you used to concoct it that denote Bombay?
Kavi Ahuja: “David is a guitar player. He was interested in the scent of a tube amplifier; when they are hot they smell of old metallic grease. He thought it would be interesting to imagine an amplifier made of sandalwood—then the hot copper tube would heat up the wood and you would get puffs of peach, milk, musk, iris, coconut, and cedar (i.e. the fragrance profile of sandalwood). In his imagination, the radio sits in the back of an old shop in Bandra playing ragas, bhajans, or old Bollywood songs.”
Luxeva: Vegan perfumes are a niche market. Was creating a vegan product important to your brand values?
David Moltz: “Most perfumes are vegan. It’s rare that people in the west use animal products in perfumes anymore.”
Kavi Ahuja: “I have been a vegetarian for most of my life. I eat mostly vegan foods and I think it’s a vital change that the world will need to make for climate change moving forward. I also believe it is morally the right thing to do, but would never want to throw that in anyone’s face. Our brand has been vegan from the start, but we've just started mentioning it.”
Luxeva: There is an emphasis on your product packaging: from the design and the ramblings inside to it being sustainable. Tell us a little about it.
Kavi Ahuja: “We want the whole user experience to be rich and meaningful. Our scents are little worlds you can enter and explore. They all have playlists on Spotify. They all have ramblings from David. They all have images. We are working on films. The box is 100 percent paper—recyclable. We stay away from using foam that goes into landfills. Ideally, one day our product will be refillable. Nothing is more important right now than managing our climate crisis.”
Luxeva: Do you have any plans to expand further in India? Or create more scents inspired by India?
Kavi Ahuja: “Yes and yes! Always.”
Featured Image: D.S. & Durga